Sir Bradley Wiggins says it made sense to include Lance Armstrong in his new book, Icons, on the grounds that he has been “part of my inspiration and part of my life more than I ever really thought.” He also believes that the Texan has “paid heavily” for his doping and expressed his belief that his former rival was singled out in an era marred by corruption.
Speaking to talkSPORT about the chapter of his book devoted to Armstrong, Wiggins explained: “When I was 13 and I was living in a council estate in London, he won the world title in Oslo and he was 21 years of age, and I was enthralled by it.
“I went out on my bike the next day and thought I was Lance Armstrong. Nobody can ever take that away from me, that feeling of freedom and going out on the bike and being inspired by him.
“I’m not saying he’s an icon. He’s iconic for good and bad reasons now, whether people like it or not. And for me, I can’t change the way it made me feel when I was 13. It changed my life.
“I’ve realised that actually this guy has been part of my inspiration and part of my life more than I ever really thought.
“I never realised then, that 16 or 17 years later I would be going toe-to-toe with him on Mont Ventoux for a podium place at the Tour de France.”
Armstrong beat Wiggins to the podium at the 2009 Tour de France before later being stripped of the result for systematic doping throughout his career.
Wiggins says there is no need for Armstrong to apologise.
“I see it more from the human side now and it is what it is. Lance has paid heavily for what he did. Okay, the sport has suffered, but he wasn’t alone in that. I think he’s been singled out as well.”
He added: “To say he’s a hero of mine is a bit strong. I still speak to him and I last spoke to him a couple of weeks ago. I know him as a person post-cycling, and post what he’s been through.”
Armstrong’s confession to Oprah came when Wiggins was Tour de France champion. He described the timing as “an inconvenience,” recalling a Team Sky press conference where he’d been handed pages of information by the media team, telling him what to say – “so I just sat there like a robot saying ‘yeah, it’s really bad for the sport’.”
Expanding on this, he lamented: “So much of sport now is about robots and key messaging and saying the right thing.”